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The coming days were much less eventful than snogging Oliver and going to Quidditch parties. I spent most of the time with Dad watching exhibition games and learning the art of the perfect apple turnover. Dad was a pro.
Roger owled me on Tuesday morning to tell me more about Madeline. Apparently she was Swiss but had been studying and playing Quidditch in England for quite some time. He emphasized the quality of her hair and how sweet she was. She looked sweet and I was happy for him. I couldn’t wait to see his shiny haired-head again.
I meandered out into the living room after stashing Roger’s letter in my desk drawer to find Dad lounging on the sofa. His feet were kicked up. “Working hard?”
“Like usual,” he said with a smile. “I don’t have to go into the office for another couple of hours so I figured I’d catch up on that new show.”
“Which new show?”
“The one with the silly family.”
I shrugged, having no idea what he was talking about. Dad loved TV, both wizarding and Muggle, something I’m sure gave him props while trying to carry on non-magical conversations with Lou.
“Letter just came for you,” he said, motioning over to the table by the kitchen. “I think it’s from Oliver. Should I read it over to make sure it’s appropriate?”
I chuckled and tossed a pillow at him. “Take a shower, you’re a mess.”
I wanted to tell you in person, but I’m running drills today so I can’t escape the team. Everything is going great here and I’ve been keeping tabs on the Denters and Michelle stuff because you told me to. They’re talking right now actually. She’s laughing, which is a start I guess. As long as she isn’t trying to make him jealous by flirting with me, I’m okay. Practice is great; the team is great. We’re all much more confident after we beat the Magpies. Maybe Puddlemere will be a contender this year!
They have a lot of confidence in me too. It was proven when the General Manager walked up to me in the locker room this morning and told me about the huge raise they were giving me. They said it was to instill confidence and show me that I could do this. Plus, being in Quidditch Weekly’s Rookie section didn’t hurt. So now I can more than afford that flat in London and a few pretty presents for you as well.
I’ll try to stop by tomorrow or Thursday.
I love you.
I nearly dropped the letter. I reread it several times. Oliver got a raise. Not just a Sickle an hour raise, no, he was talking a hefty chunk of change for being so damn good. He was good and he deserved it! I wished I could see him that day, though.
“Any news?” Dad asked, ruffling his hair.
“Oliver got a raise.” I handed him the letter. “And Liam and Michelle are talking.”
“He’s dropping the L bomb now?” He raised a brow. “I don’t know how I feel about that. Maybe I’ll have to give him a stern talking-to.”
I snatched it back. “Should I give Lou a stern-talking to?”
“You always have the best come-backs.” He wrinkled his nose and stretched. “Okay, okay. I’ll go take a shower and head into work. You’re such a demanding child.” With a kiss on the cheek, Dad disappeared into the other room and I was left to ponder what kinds of gifts Oliver would get me.
“So let me get this straight,” Alicia said. Her arms were folded and she was sitting on the edge of my bed. “Oliver got a raise and he’s not sharing any of it with me?”
“That’s pretty much it,” I said.
The girls were over the following day, sprawled out over my room, all equally upset their boyfriends weren’t getting raises to share with them. Except Katie because she was still delusional.
“He did do really well at the game,” she said. “We all figured he’d do well but the Magpies would still win. I’m impressed.” She was flipping through old photo albums. That one was from the first few years at Hogwarts. My hair looked like it was out of a horror film. Who let me run around like that?
“He deserves it,” Angelina said. “He’s been putting up with Hogwarts Quidditch so long. And not going to Brazil when he could have played there. Because of Jane.”
I groaned. “Well, because of me he’s the star of the Puddlemere team. And he doesn’t have to put up with Bastian on a daily basis.”
Alicia shot me a look.
“How are things with Mr. Perry and Lou?” asked Katie. “She’s not around today.”
“Yeah, Dad’s at the office today. Lou has been here off and on,” I said. “Amanda has been here less, which is a blessing for my clothes, the damn thief.” I shrugged. “Not sure, though. I’m guessing things are going well. It’s still weird.”
“Because your dad is dating?”
“Not really,” I said. “It’s just that he’s dating a Muggle. Nothing wrong with it, but it’s so hard for me not to talk about Quidditch exhibition scores and I know it’s hard for him. Hell, he works at the Ministry. He’s obsessive about Quidditch. I’m wondering if they have anything at all in common.”
“They must if they’ve been together this long.” Angelina was looking through my closet. “What is this pink shirt? I’ve never seen you wear this.”
I made a noise. “There’s a reason.”
“Do you think Mr. P is going to tell Lou about him being a wizard?” Alicia asked.
Another shrug. “No idea. I feel like he’s heading in that direction, but it’s really intense. What if she freaks out? But then again, what if she thinks it’s awesome, they get married, and Amanda is my sister forever? Maybe we’ll move into a different flat. I like this flat.”
Ang threw the pink shirt at me. “Calm down. You have no idea what’s going to happen and you can’t control it. If Amanda ends up being your sister, you can just treat her like a younger sister.”
“Ruin her life.” Angelina laughed. “Only joking, but you’re going to be at Hogwarts all year, and afterward you’ll probably be moving out.”
She was right. I hadn’t thought about life after Hogwarts. Much at all, actually. Oliver just went off and played professional Quidditch, but what was I supposed to do? I wasn’t going to play, I wanted to write. Could I just get a writing job right out of Hogwarts? I’d already met with Valerie Gig and I had the business cards of countless of other writers. I had no idea what that meant. Bugger on uncertainties.
“Will you lot be moving out?” I asked.
“Depends if I get a job,” said Alicia. “If I get signed I’ll be out of here. Hopefully instead of a reserve offer I’ll get a real one.”
“Same,” said Angelina.
“Maybe,” said Katie. I didn’t blame her. She lived in an enormous house with a cook. She might need some adjustment time.
I thought about being in my own flat with the limited things from my bedroom. I’d have to do serious shopping before I could fill a whole flat. But I’d have to get a serious writing job before I could afford furniture. I’d just swipe some of Hogwarts’ desks or the four-poster. They wouldn’t miss it.
“You all thinking about flats?” Angelina asked.
“Mine will be bright colors,” said Alicia. “It’ll be weird not being in the country. With Hogwarts and with my uncle’s house I’ve been out in the middle of nowhere with nature.”
“Weirdly,” I said, “since you have more of a city personality.”
“What do you think the boys will do?” said Angelina. “Do you think they’ll really go for that joke shop? And Lee with them?”
“I don’t think they have their hearts set on anything else.” Alicia put down another photo album. “Jane, you needed so many hair charms. Anyway, even if they got contracts I don’t think they’d take them. And Lee just wants to be with them. One day they’ll get sick of each other.”
“Doubtful,” said Katie with a smile. “They have so much man love for each other. It’s borderline scary, really.” She paused, staring at her red nails. “George invited me to the Burrow, you know.”
“I wasn’t sure if we were still doing that,” Alicia said.
“Well, we go every year,” I pressed.
“Just with the explosion at Katie’s I didn’t know if everyone would show up.” Alicia jerked her head toward Katie.
“I mean, I don’t have to go, it’s just an invite,” Katie said. “But I hate the thought of all of you being there without me. Even if George is there and we don’t see eye to eye and don’t get along, the rest of you are my friends.”
I caught Angelina rolling her eyes.
“So are you going or not?” Alicia wasn’t known for her patience.
“Should I?” Katie was twisting her fingers. “What if it’s awkward?”
“You were just in a Quidditch box with him and carried on a conversation.”
“Then fought,” she pointed out.
“You two are so stupid,” Alicia said. “I swear, I feel like it’s back at the retreat and you’re Ang and I’m me telling you you’re stupid.”
“I resent that,” said Ang.
“You would.” Alicia pushed her hair back. “Look, Katie, do what you want, but know all three of us will continuously think you’re ridiculous for not going and not spending the week with us. Just a head’s up.”
“She needs a filter,” Ang said, laughing.
“Then she wouldn’t be Alicia,” I replied. “So what’s the verdict, Katie? Come and deal with George while hanging out with the people you adore, or stay at home with Thelma and learn how to make a burrito?”
She groaned. “I’ll be there.” Then she jumped because there was a knock at the front door.
We rushed out of the bedroom since Dad wasn’t there to open it, each of us wondering if it was someone famous and lost at the door. Also hoping it was not Amanda.
“I got out early,” said Oliver, who was leaning against the frame when I opened the door. “Good afternoon, ladies.”
“Ah, my ex-Captain,” Alicia said. “Still the suave Scotsman.”
I threw my arms around him. “I got your letter. Bring me anything?”
“It’s not tangible.” He laughed. “I thought I would be enough.”
“So you thought,” I said, smiling, kissing him. “We were just talking about the week at the Burrow. Will you be there?”
“I have most of the week off before the season starts, but I’ll be in and out.”
“Can’t ask for more than that,” I said, steering him back toward the bedroom. “Katie will be there.”
He raised a brow, looking over his shoulder at his previous Chaser. “Ah, will she?”
“Yes,” Katie muttered.
“And she’ll love it!” Alicia chimed in, closing the door as all of us piled in my bedroom. “How’s the Quidditch world, Captain?”
“Erm, ex-Captain,” said Alicia, rolling her eyes.
“It’s not bad. Jane might have told you I got a sizable raise so things are getting easier in that department. Harder in training, but I think it’ll be worth it. We’re really working together well.” Oliver leaned back onto his elbows on my bed. “Lots of exciting things happening.”
“I saw the schedule,” Angelina said. “It looks intense. You’re playing a lot of higher ranked teams multiple times this season. Do you think your team has it in them not to burn out?”
“We can’t get any worse,” he said. “Well, we weren’t in last place last year, but we were close.”
“I guess that’s one way to look at it.”
“What I mean is we can only go up and if we burn out and don’t finish at the top, hey, we did our best, right?” Oliver smiled. “The beginning of the season is going to get interesting, though.”
I pulled my knees close to my chest. Each of the other girls moved forward.
“Oh?” I said.
“That’s sort of why I’m here.” He smirked. I loved that look. It meant he had a secret. Oliver always had a secret, but he had a good one. “Well, my parents are trying their best to be supportive.”
I hoped that meant no more surprise dinner dates with Quidditch Daughters. Or “The Daughters,” as Ellis called them.
“They decided to sponsor a Puddlemere showing on the Quidditch Network in a couple weeks. It includes the airing of the game, plus a one-hour segment before about the team and a two-hour segment afterward wrapping up the game and talking more about the team, players, and fandom. It’ll really get us on the map in terms of a legitimate, competitive team.” He drew a deep breath, sitting up again. “And I can’t say no because it’s Puddlemere, but they wanted to throw a dinner party at their house in celebration of it. And all of you are invited.” He beamed.
A dinner party at the Wood household. Complete with riffraff references.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been to your house,” Alicia said. “Not that we were really mates before this year. Is your house awesome?”
“My parents’ house is rather large,” Oliver said, putting an emphasis on the fact that it wasn’t his house. “It’s fancy I guess.”
“Did you have a pony growing up?” she said. “I know Katie did.”
“Shut it.” Katie threw one of my pillows.
“I demand ponies at this party,” said Alicia, throwing the pillow back.
“You can wear a fancy dress,” Oliver said. “That’s all I’m giving you. Oh, and free food.”
“Ah, can’t say no to that.”
“Oh, and tell Fred, George, and Lee they’re invited as well. I was going to stop over there but Fred said before he’d see you in a few days, Ang. So you can be the messenger that they have to wear suit jackets and ties.”
She groaned. “They won’t take that well.”
“But you’ll tell them?”
“I’ll take the hit.” Angelina laughed, trying for a bit of a wink.
Oliver tightened his arm around my shoulders. “I really do have to go, though. I promised Mum I’d help her put together a menu, which requires me to make silly faces when she mentions food I don’t understand.”
“You’ve only been here a minute!” I whined, not really caring about the look Ang was giving me. “Can’t your mum wait?”
He smiled. “I’ll see you soon, love.” Oliver kissed me on the cheek. “Can’t wait to see what dress you wear to the dinner. It’ll definitely be a place to see and be seen.”
“So we’ll be in the nineteenth century?” Alicia groaned.
He got to his feet. “All right, ladies. I’m off. Jane, I’ll see you soon. Ang, Katie, Alicia, I’ll see you this weekend.” With a kiss that was probably more inappropriate than it wasn’t, Oliver left and I heard the door snap shut. Well, bugger.
“Aw, sorry, Jane,” Alicia said, stretching. “A mum just got picked over you.”
“I’m over it,” I said, laughing. “We have some shopping to do after all.”
“Today?” said Ang.
“What better day than today?”
“Never,” she said. “It’s going to take us forever to settle on dresses.”
“Who else can we invite to help?”
Alicia tapped her foot on the floor. “What about Dodger?”
“He has practice on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday,” I said.
She leapt to her feet. “I know!”
Katie glanced over from opening the window. “Enlighten us. Thinking about inviting Professor McGonagall?”
“Let’s invite Lou!”
I nearly choked. “Lou—Lou as in my dad’s girlfriend? That Lou?”
Alicia nodded. “Sure! What’s she doing today other than running her shop? She should come give an opinion on our fabulous see and be seen dresses.”
We were silent for a moment.
“Do you think that means formal?” I wondered aloud. I could barely picture myself in anything more formal than a cocktail dress.
“If it’s being thrown by the Wood clan you can bet it will be,” said Angelina. “How do you feel about inviting Lou, Jane? I mean, she seems really brilliant. Maybe she has a stellar fashion sense.”
I didn’t know how I felt. I liked Lou. She was good for Dad and made him smile and buy healthy food for the flat. Her shop was nice and she was a lovely woman with a strange daughter. But shopping buddy? That was something I hadn’t considered, mostly because of the potential awkwardness.
“I don’t see a problem with it,” Alicia chimed in. “I’m sure she’ll be fun. Let’s go get her.”
Ang shot me a worried look.
“No, no, let’s do it,” I said, grabbing my purse from the bedside stand. “Lou’s a lovely woman and I’m sure it’ll be fun. I’ll leave Dad a note saying where we’ve gone.” I snatched up a slip of parchment and scribbled a bit on it as the girls finished leafing through books and messing everything up. Alicia even ruffled my hair before leading the way out the door.
Lou’s shop was the same as last time. Still quirky, fun, and adorable. My eyes found some new products and I marveled at the interesting pocket watches and tea-bag holders. One was in a fun rainbow print.
“Jane!” Lou cried, bustling to the front as the cashiers helped more people. It was strangely full, just like last time. “How are you?”
I smiled, still a little uncomfortable with the situation. “Great, actually. Listen, I was wondering if you were busy.”
She looked around and cocked a brow. “What do you mean? My life is one big bowl of busy.”
“Well, Oliver’s parents are hosting this fundraising dinner this weekend,” I said, picking words carefully. “We all needed dresses to impress the boys.” Katie made a noise. “So we were wondering if maybe you’d like to accompany us to a couple stores and give some opinions?”
Lou beamed. “I can put Charlotte in charge for a few hours. I’d love to, girls.” She shed a pink apron, swung it over the counter, and retreated to the back to grab her purse.
“See?” said Alicia. “It wasn’t that hard.”
“Let’s hope this doesn’t get painful,” I said.
“I promise not to mention snogging your Dad,” she said. “Because I don’t want to picture her snogging Mr. P. That would be treason.”
“Since you dream about it all the time,” Angelina said with an eye roll. She pretended to be talking about hand-painted plates when Lou returned. “The kittens are precious.”
“I have the perfect place,” Lou said, pulling her hair back into a soft bun. “It’s a little ways away, but we can take the underground. Trust me. This place is worth it.”
I couldn’t remember the last time I had been on the London underground and there was a reason. It was disgusting. There were people everywhere and some of them smelled worse than the boys’ locker rooms at Hogwarts. Some even worse than Flint. Not many could earn that title though.
Katie kept clutched tight to us.
We emerged somewhere I’d never been, a place full of dark brick and colorful windows. “The rent here is astronomical,” Lou said, ushering us past boutiques and art galleries. “But it’s still my favorite place to shop. Right over here—see that tea shop with the lion painting in the window? That’s where your father and I met, Jane.”
Cue the snogging, touching, and general awkwardness.
Ang put a hand on my shoulder while Alicia stifled her laughter.
“Oh, is it? Didn’t know Dad came down here.” I tightened my jaw.
Lou smiled gently. “Sure, all the time. I saw him in there quite a bit before he came up to me while I was reading over a cup of tea. I remember I was reading some horrible novel and I tried to hide the cover as quickly as possible.” She giggled. Really, giggled.
I internally reminded myself that I liked Lou.
“Here it is!” she cried, pointing to a shop to our right that had stunning dresses on display in the window. “They’re all reasonably priced because she sells so many. And the sewing is perfect. So are the colors.” Lou practically ripped open the door, but I could tell what she meant. Everything had such a nice flow to it.
Inside were about a dozen large racks with various dresses, hung by size, on display. There were also mannequins wearing an assortment of dresses in navies, greens, and violets.
Katie ran right for the jewel tones, filling a selected dressing room with taffeta, crinoline, and all the satin she could carry.
Angelina ran her fingers down all the dresses before delicately picking out one or two to try on.
Alicia just grabbed the nearest dresses to her and then made fun of one in a mustard color.
I went up and down the racks wrinkling my nose at some dresses and wondering about others. Would they make my shoulders look too broad? How about the cut? Where was it landing on my midsection? I realized I was making indents in my lips from biting so much.
“I have my first on!” Katie cried. Apparently she was now excited about the fundraiser since it had to do with shopping. She emerged from the dressing room in a stunning floor-length dress in deep blue satin. “I can already tell this is going to be a difficult choice.”
“Holy shit, Katie,” Ang said. “That looks amazing on you.” She dove into a dressing room, Alicia taking the third.
I was suddenly overwhelmed. Not in a way that suggested I couldn’t pick a dress, but it felt like everything was happening so soon. Oliver got a raise and I had to show my face back at his parents’ house, which I was certain would be full of people like Bridget and the Woods’. Not to mention shopping with Lou and the need to settle on four dresses.
Angelina was out next and Katie poked her head out to see what it looked like.
“Done,” she said. She twirled around the tri-fold mirror in a shiny dress that hugged her body. It was in some creamy orange-salmon color and made her skin look radiant. Ang pulled her hair back and held it there with one hand. “What do you girls think? I think this is the one.”
“You should like you’re wedding dress shopping,” Lou said with a laugh and Katie pulled her head back inside the dressing room. “I think it looks beautiful. You said you had a boyfriend? Fred, right? I think he’ll love it. Won’t be able to keep his hands off of you.”
“That’s not new,” Alicia said after she had returned to getting her dress on.
“I’m getting it,” Angelina said in a voice that suggested even if we hated it she would be wearing it this weekend. “It’s perfect. Fred is going to lose his mind.”
“Once again,” Alicia piped up, “that’s nothing new.”
“Jane, you can have my room,” Ang said as she reentered. “I just have to put these other dresses back and change.” She did a double-take and her head appeared to the right of the curtain. “Where are your choices?”
“Oh, I’m watching you lot first.” I smiled. Secretly, my heart was hammering. I wanted a dress that would make Oliver lose his mind. Unfortunately, there were racks and racks and I had a feeling I wouldn’t emerge from a dressing room telling the girls I’d made my choice.
Ang rolled her eyes and went back in to change.
Katie emerged again with a fushia dress made from silk. It also hugged her body.
Alicia’s face appeared. “I could hear the loudness of that dress from in here,” she said. “Put it back.”
I made a face. “I think Puddlemere should be the talk of the party. Not that color.”
Katie huffed and stomped back into the room.
“I was glad you lot said it,” Lou whispered with a sideways smile.
For a moment all three girls were moving fabric and I could hear frustrated noises make their way out from behind the velvet curtains. The shop clerk was dancing around to the music playing on speakers placed around the shop. I liked this place.
Alicia came out in a dress that screamed cow print to me. She took one look at it, laughed, and then went back into the room. This happened several times and we weren’t able to get a word in about the print, fabric, or how it looked on her.
Ang, however, had already paid for her dress and placed the others back on the rack in the correct places (much to the clerk’s approval). That dressing room was now empty, staring back at me like a bad dream. I had no dresses in my hands.
Katie let out a yell of frustration. “I don’t like any of them!” she said.
“Let me help,” said Lou, rushing out onto the sales floor. I expected her to come back with a zillion choices in different colors and styles, but she returned with a soft gray tone, something I didn’t think Katie would like at all. “Just try it,” she said, handing it in to Katie.
“What is it?” called Alicia. I could tell by the strain in her voice she was forcing a zipper up.
“It’s gray,” was all Katie said.
“Huh,” said Alicia.
Angelina leaned down. “If you don’t start picking dresses I’m going to make you try on that mustard one.”
I groaned. “Fine.”
“Lou, will you help Jane out? She is under some weird dilusion that dress shopping is hard or scary even though she found beautiful ones for other events.”
“Those weren’t formal!” I said, trying to save myself from humiliation. Didn’t work.
“What colors do you like, Jane?” Lou asked.
“Uh, any? That dress I wore to the other event was a brown cocktail dress. It was really simple.” I shrugged.
“You need something more noticeable,” Alicia shouted. “Lou, find her something dramatic!”
“I think everyone noticed me just fine,” I mumbled.
“Find her drama!” Katie agreed, laughing. “Okay, are you all ready for this one?”
Lou hung back for a minute and Alicia poked her head out, clearly out of breath from the zipper.
Katie emerged and I knew right away. It was obvious she felt like a million Galleons walking toward the mirror. With beading on the top and a drop waist, it was the ritzy she loved with the classy she was. It was perfect and it wasn’t in some bright color. I smiled.
I saw the rest of the girls were wearing the same expression.
“Katie,” Alicia said, awestruck. “That is…wow.”
“I think so too,” she said weakly, turning to see the back of the dress in the mirror. “I haven’t felt like this in so long. Exhilarated, you know?”
Ang hugged her, shopping bag flopping all over the place. “Good. Now buy the damn thing and let’s get Jane into something. She’s being difficult.”
“Wait!” Alicia cried. “Wait, this is so me.”
I glanced over and Alicia was nothing but right. She was in a black dress with a pink waist, extra sewn fabric making patterns all down the dress. It was her.
“So that just leaves Jane?” Ang said.
“You think I should get it?” Alicia’s eyes were wide.
“That just leaves Jane,” Ang repeated, nearly ignoring her. “Everyone spread out! This could get interesting.”
I immediately regretted not picking out random dresses throughout the process of watching them.
Angelina was right. It did get interesting, considering I was stuffed in the middle dressing room surrounded by wacky colors, ball gowns, and even some patterns. I figured they wanted to break me before they built me up again. Either that or they were completely fashion-challenged.
I thought about Katie with the gray dress. I thought she’d hate it, but it fit her well. She loved it. Maybe I’d find a dress like that. That Oliver would be speechless over. That the Mrs. Wood would approve of. Pfft, yeah right. She wouldn’t approve of me unless I caught the Snitch in record time and was signed to a professional team right out of Hogwarts.
“Try on the black and white one first! Do it.” Alicia sounded impatient.
I grabbed it. I didn’t even make it out of the dressing room. “Why did you pick this waist? I look preggo.”
“I wanted to see what you would look like with a bun in the oven,” Alicia replied. “I could take a picture and show Wood so he’d get freaked out.”
“You’re a horrible person,” I said, tossing the dress over the top of the curtain and going for something in a navy blue.
I walked out, the dress twirling around me. “This is nice,” I said.
“Take it off,” Lou said. “If your response is ‘nice’ then onto the next one.”
This happened several times. They all fit well. They were all pretty dresses, even the ones in bold colors. I just didn’t love them. Did I love any dress in this shop like the other girls loved theirs?
“Who the hell picked out this one?” I was staring at a dress on the bench, very nearly rolling my eyes at it. It had a green bodice with jewels and a black, partially sparkly crinoline bottom, poofing out. “The green and black mess.”
“It’s dramatic!” Alicia cried. “Just try it on and we’ll go find you more simple options.” I heard the disappointment in her voice.
“Whatever,” I mumbled, hoisting the dress up and zipping the back much to my muscles’ disapproval. Without glancing in the room mirror I walked out, expecting laughter. What I got was quite different. Jaws sitting lazily on the floor.
“Jane,” said Lou. “Jane, look at yourself.”
I peeked at the mirror to my right.
Well, holy hell.
I looked like a weird version of a princess. A dramatic, kind of dark princess that looked damn good. It fit me perfectly and the bottom wasn’t too overpowering for the event.
“I…” I mumbled, looking from the girls back to the mirror.
“Bingo,” said Alicia with a giggle. “Ah, I’m so good at this game.”
“Nice pick,” Ang said.
“I think we’re done here,” Katie said cheerfully.
I wanted to stay in that dress forever. I wanted to walk around in it and pretend to do the dishes in it (because I don’t actually do the dishes now that I can do magic outside of school) and watch movies in it. Maybe I’d even play Quidditch in it.
Dramatic, beautiful, and it made me feel amazing. Oliver was going to like this dress.
We got ready at Katie’s on Saturday since Apparition was our new favorite way to see each other. Mr. and Mrs. Bell were away again doing promotions so we had the place to ourselves with plenty of appetizers to tie us over until the event. We set up camp in the second floor lounge, a place that was overly familiar to all of us, and spread out.
Makeup on the far table, mirrors with lights over them to complete the vanity look. Dresses in garment bags. Undergarments strewn across the sofas. Magical curling irons and straighteners too hot to touch by the door. And music blaring from Sienna Bay. She was at Hogwarts several years before I got there and was a Hufflepuff. Other than that she had a fun, rocky voice.
“Do you lot really think Lee is going to like this?” Alicia asked, motioning to her dress, which was the only one of the four out of the bag. She liked it too much to stop looking at it. “It’s not as sexy as Ang’s or as dramatic as Jane’s.”
“But it’s unique like Leesh,” I said, smiling between globs of lip gloss.
“Who else do you think will be there?” Katie said nonchalantly.
“People,” Ang muttered.
Katie practically growled. “I meant like whom. Oliver wasn’t exactly specific.”
“Well, it’s the Woods’, so I’m guessing very important people in the Quidditch world. Definitely the whole Puddlemere team, maybe people from other teams, and execs from the team. Maybe people from the Puddlemere reserve team.” I layered on the mascara. “Probably other higher-ups that Mr. Wood knows.”
“Do you think idiot stick will be there?” Alicia asked.
“Bridget? Probably.” I dreaded that thought. I could handle Amanda borrowing my clothes or even Bridget running her mouth about the made-up relationship she and Oliver had, but for her to be there made me a little nervous. She had power. Sure, I had the press on my side, as well as several Quidditch stars, but she was sneaky. I hated that. Bleeding wretch.
“I can’t wait to see her,” Alicia said, no doubt remembering what I told her about Bridget cornering me in the ladies room. “She doesn’t want to see me.”
“I feel like I have a body guard,” I said, laughing, checking out my made-up face. It was me, but perfected. I didn’t want to look too different. Then Oliver wouldn’t recognize me. Nah, just perfect.
Onto the hair. I waited for Angelina to finish fighting with the straigtener. She swore it hated her. I swore it didn’t have emotions.
Alicia was the first in her dress and I wasn’t surprised. She was in love with it, Lee be damned. I was fairly certain Lee would love it just as much, if not more. She twirled around the lounge, knocking over a vase of flowers and fixing it lazily with her wand. “Worth it,” she mumbled at Katie’s annoyed face.
Angelina was second to be ready, waving her purse around like a weapon.
Katie kept adjusting her hair, worried it made her face look thicker than it was. “Seriously,” she added. “Does it? It looks different.”
I resisted the urge to mess up her hair. Alicia didn’t.
“Argh!” Katie shrieked, grabbing for the curling iron again.
I had Angelina zip up my dress in front of the mirror. I felt strangely girly. Not that I wasn’t girly before, but whenever I wore something fancy (even that cocktail dress) I felt feminine and strangely powerful.
Bridget didn’t stand a damn chance.
Whatever I prepared myself for, it wasn’t enough. I even heard Katie let out a gasp beside me as we strolled up to the Wood household. The front was as I remembered it—overwhelming. Now there were people taking jackets at the entrance (it was summer so we went without) and classical music echoing through the home. People were everywhere and I wondered if there were really this many Quidditch execs.
Was this a little much for sponsoring a spot on the Quidditch network? I wasn’t sure. I needed to know more about the Quidditch world.
Ang grabbed my hand and pulled me to the sitting room on the left. “Aha!” she cried, pointing at three familiar faces looking particularly awkward on the white sofa.
“Oh, thank Merlin,” Fred cried, leaping up and throwing himself into Angelina’s arms. Suddenly he stopped and backed away, tongue visible. “Angelina bleeding Johnson,” he breathed.
“You’re a mess,” she replied, poking his tongue back into his mouth.
“I’m supposed to keep my hands off you for this whole thing? How will that even work?” Fred kissed her. “Ah, vanilla! You know how to please your man.”
“Keep it tame, will you?” she said, but smiled all the same, a hint of color on her cheeks.
Lee was already circling Alicia. “I love it,” he said. “Can you wear this every day?”
“Told you he’d like it!” Katie said cheerfully, clearly forgetting George was still awkwardly on the sofa. Then she saw him. And stuffed a piece of hair behind her ear. Just as awkwardly.
George kicked at his feet.
“Jane!” Fred said, kissing Ang and walking over to me. “This dress is so…holy hell…Ang, pull me away, I’ll cheat! I’ll do it!”
I laughed. “You clean up nice too, Freddie.” I winked at him and moved closer to his twin, plopping down on the sofa. “Hey, beautiful,” I said with another wink.
He chuckled. “You look great, Jane.” He wasn’t looking at me. His eyes were on a girl with a gray dress.
“Thanks, dear. You too.” I ruffled his ginger hair. “Hey.” I lowered my voice. “Have fun tonight, okay? Even if it looks like I want to murder Oliver’s parents or Bridget.”
“She’s going to be here?” He glanced over, worried look on his face.
“I’m sure she will be. We just got here so I haven’t seen her yet.”
He made a face. “I’ve got your back, Janey.”
I grinned and went for another ruffle, but he got there first. He pinched my cheeks.
“I should go find my boyfriend,” I said lightly. “Are you lot staying here?”
“Nah,” said Fred. “I’ve been waiting for Ang to get here so I can take her for a spin on the dance floor.”
“To piano music?” Ang asked, taken aback.
“It’ll have a beat once we get a few drinks in us.”
“Oliver is going to have to do so much damage control,” I said with a laugh and set out through the house to try and find the Scotsman. I passed numerous people I’d seen at the fundraiser dinner, most of them moving out of the way for my stellar ball gown, though I did see quite a few others with full dresses. I ducked when I saw Oliver’s mum having a mini toast with who I knew to be the owner of Puddlemere United.
“There you are,” Oliver said, catching me right as I passed the kitchens. “I’ve been looking for you.”
“Got here a few minutes ago,” I said, letting out a breath I’d been holding. “Found the boys in the sitting room right off the foyer. Yes, they’re all wearing ties and yes, Fred might go for the rum.”
He laughed. “At least dinner will sober them up.” He winked at me, then moved back, as if finally realizing what I was wearing. Then, without another word, Oliver was dragging me into the large pantry, shoving me back against a wall, and kissing me.
A/N: Happy November! Who is getting snow? I think we're nearly there. This chapter fought with me for nearly a month and then I sat down tonight and suddenly it all came together so sorry about the delay! The next chapter should be shorter in terms of wait.
Favorite part? Fave dress (mine is probably Alicia's)? And what do you think is going to go down in the next chapter?
Up Next: A fashion emergency, there is a balcony, and someone gets kicked.